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08 March 2013

"Men don't do this! They just get on with it!"

Since writing my last post about women-only networking events, I've been thinking a lot about feminist conversation and how women talk about themselves.

Sheryl Sandberg's latest "social mission" and book titled Lean In focuses on the idea that if only women leaned in to their jobs more aggressively and tried harder, we'd break the glass ceiling and diminish the patriarchy. Just by leaning in. Like Michael Jackson in the "Smooth Criminal" video.

See, this is where we've been going wrong, ladies! We've all been leaning the wrong way! 

This idea seems to fit perfectly with all the anti-feminist arguments that go something like:

  • "If women were more ambitious, there would be more female CEOs!"
  • "If more women wanted to be in tech, they would be!"
  • "Men don't sit around talking about this stuff, they just get on with it!"

The last point in particular has been circling my brain all week.

Men don't really sit around talking about what it means to be male. They don't hold networking events to discuss work/life balance. They don't (for the most part) criticise male role models, talk about the need for men to help mentor younger men, or question the definitions of masculinity to the extent that women and feminists question femininity and feminism. 

Men don't do this. They just get on with it. But they damn well should. 

Claiming that men just getting on with it without a discussion around doing so suggests that men are doing just fine. 

Yet men just getting on with it has lead to things like Britain losing it's AAA credit rating. Men just getting on with it means that yet another religious figure is being questioned for "inappropriate behviour". Men getting on with it means that men are glorified even when charged with murdering their sexy girlfriend,  and other men can even win prestigious awards despite beating their sexy girlfriend's face to a bloody pulp. 

Men getting on with it really hasn't been going that well.

Looking at the statistics of domestic violence, blame culture, violent crimes, shooting sprees, and war... what would happen if men did stop and ask themselves,"Wait, what is going on with us?"

Self-awareness and self-observation are cornerstones of emotional intelligence, yet it seems that men looking at themselves as a gender the way women do is simply not done. Is this perhaps because it's seen as a feminine thing to do?

There are many men who do this, and sites like Role Reboot do a fantastic job of raising such questions. I don't like feminist discussions seeming to be men vs women, nor do I agree with the idea "if women ruled the world", things would be better. I just think that if more women helped rule the world, things would be more balanced. 

Today is International Women's Day, and as many feminists I know have pointed out as a premtive strike to the many criticisms of IWD, that there IS an International Men's Day. I happen to agree that with Rosamund Urwin that the other 364 days per year belong to men, just as I believe we should be focusing and celebrating women every day - not just 8 March. 

Our current, traditional gender roles and the patriarchal structure of our society haven't exactly created the progressive haven we would have thought we'd be at in the year 2013. 

Women have been arguing and fighting and analysing themselves and what it means to be a woman - and an equal one at that - for decades, and in some cases, for over a hundred years. Our society, our world, doesn't really seem all that progressive to me. I think this will only change when men start to change, too. 

Sheryl Sandberg is right to ask women to be the best they can be, and try as hard as they can, but with any relationship, one person can't be doing all the work. In society, it cannot just be women asking all the questions or trying to find magical and new ways to change the structure and balance of power. It will take both genders, so perhaps men need to stop just getting on with it, and start having some serious conversations with each other. 


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